Release Dates: PC September 15 + 20 2000, PS2 December 6 + August 2, 2002
Consoles: Personal Computer, PlayStation 2, and Xbox
Our heroic team of the hour. Don’t let the pixelated goodness fool you, this is perhaps the finest Star Trek video game in the fifty-five years the franchise has been in existence.
During the recent Lockdown trilogy, to no one’s surprise Video on Demand services such as Netflix experienced a dramatic uptick in subscriptions and people binging on shows. To a particular subset of people like your faithful scribe, the Star Trek franchise was one of these and in particular, the fifth spin off series Star Trek: Voyager. What might come as a surprise is if a show ran 7 seasons 1995 - 2001, why did it only have a single video game outing in that time? Particularly if there is an audience built in for it? The answer is unfortunately, I’m not too sure.
Star Trek as a whole is mainly distilled into using the weapon that is your intellect and peace to advance, so it never much delves into the genre of First-Person Shooter. This is a bit of a shame really, as this game and its sequel show, when they do, the results are beyond magnificent.
Cast at the start into a Borg Cube house of horrors, it is extremely predictable you get the ending of the level you do. But shortly into the game your largely newbie character Alex Munroe (either male or female - a touch giving it an edge over its sequel) is advanced to the role of head of the Hazard Squad which the Elite Force title is referring to. This is due to your team leader catching a nasty bout of being dead.
Well, he’s not exactly dead, we’re led to believe he’s been assimilated by the Borg, then find him in suspended animation. My theory is he is actually Star Trek’s answer to South Park’s Kenny. Munroe’s character is never mentioned in the series 172 episodes, puzzling as they play such an integral role in this game and the second. Munroe does seem to fit well into the show’s universe and does not feel as shoehorned in as could have been possible.
My only gripes with the Hazard Team as a whole are twofold and extremely nit-picking. One person in the team is Crewman Chell, a Bolian unseen on the show since a starring role in season one’s ‘Learning Curve’. He never gets to wildly fire in the game, but in the episode, he seems to know only roughly how to fire a phaser so while decent fan service, it’s weird he has since become proficient to the point he is effectively an elite guard for the crew.
Secondly, almost everyone in the game who serves on Voyager’s Hazard Team has the same uniform. It might be realistic, but it is just drab to play through.
The weaponry is many and varied during the game. You get the standards of your Phaser and Phaser Rifle, but there are many and a sundry. Perhaps the two most interesting are the Borg defeating iMod (debuting in this game over a year before Apple debuted the iPod - just saying), it is a bit of a cheat work around of the Borg’s ‘they ignore you until they see you as a threat’ gimmick and the mini–Photon Torpedo launcher. Of course, none of these big weapons are ever even mentioned in the show despite the fact they would have been extremely useful, but for how sheer fun they are, I more than forgive them.
Weirdly, even though it is set in the Star Trek universe where every alien speaks fluent English, this is perhaps the most realistic FPS. Modern shooters often limit you to a small handful of weapons. Like Goldeneye, you can carry a virtual one-man army of weapons, but when choosing between them, they visibly beam in. This little touch might seem just an innocuous detail, but it also solves a huge controversy in the FPS genre. It might also be responsible for more modern games having fewer guns at your disposal.
I also love how not only does it faithfully recreate sets from Voyager and strangely enough, The Original Series (set over a century before Star Trek: Voyager’s pilot episode ‘Caretaker’) but the expansion pack also comes with the programme Virtual Voyager. For a die-hard Trek geek such as me, to tour these long since struck sets in detail and experience daily life aboard the USS Voyager? Absolute heaven. There is not much in the way of jeopardy during this programme and for a FPS game, this seemingly boring addition is instead a welcome respite, a nice relaxation after a hard work out.
Thanks also to the expansion pack, the game features a full voice cast from the regulars (minus Jennifer Lien’s Kes, although her character is not in the show by the time the game is set). It just makes this game feel like you are actually playing through a string of a few episodes. Perhaps the pressure that you’d need to make any Star Trek game feel a fully immersive experience coupled with the somewhat brutal production schedule of the shows is why there are not many more Star Trek games like this.
Overall, a great experience of a game. It almost definitely requires you to be a Trekkie, but the game play, story and production values are strong. Plus, as it is now old enough to buy alcohol in the United States of America, if you have something compatible, I’m sure to pick it up is cheap as chips. Additionally, there are multiple calls for a remaster. Until it happens, your faithful scribe here will always join them.
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